By Neil H. Dempsey
---- — Total storm tally: strong winds, 16.2 inches of snow, a slew of minor accidents, one finger injured by a snow blower, two homes destroyed on Plum Island — and more than a few irate shovelers.
On the bright side, Salem meteorologist Arthur Francis said last night that a lot of the 16.2 inches of snow the March storm dumped on Salem State University had already melted, thanks to how warm the ground was. He said more melting was likely today and that there was a glimmer of hope on the horizon for people who’ve had enough.
“You can look forward to a nice week coming up,” Francis said. “More of what we should have for March, you know.”
That should be a relief for local residents who found themselves getting into accidents during the Thursday-into-Friday storm, beginning with a 21-year-old who damaged the front driver side bumper and tire of his 2012 Ford Fusion when he slid into a fire hydrant at the intersection of Leavitt and Lafayette streets at about 2 a.m. The driver and his passenger were uninjured and the fire hydrant emerged unscathed.
The next accident in Salem occurred at about 2:30 a.m., when a woman in a PT Crusier struck a curb after driving onto an unplowed section of Highland Avenue, damaging her front bumper and right tire in the process. She too was uninjured.
“The roadway was completely snow covered due to the heavy snow that was falling at the time,” wrote police in the incident log.
Highland Avenue seemed to get more than its share of accidents during the storm. At 9:08 a.m., a vehicle rear-ended another vehicle that had stopped at a red light at the entrance to Salem Hospital. Then, at about 10:30 a.m., a Chevrolet Malibu traveling outbound on the street near Walmart failed to stop at a red light and crashed into a Ford van. The operator of the Malibu told police that they hadn’t seen the red light because snow was covering it.
“This officer did observe the light covered with snow,” wrote police.
Shortly thereafter, at about 11 a.m., a Toyota SUV struck a traffic light near the same location and then fled the area. Police found the light pole “broken off at the base and laying in the road,” according to the log, but they were unable to find the suspect.
Other minor accidents were reported on Bridge, Boston and Dodge streets, one of which involved a delivery truck sliding into a parked vehicle while it was trying to make a delivery.
A number of storm-related disputes also erupted throughout Salem, beginning with a 2:17 a.m. report that a plow was pushing snow into a driveway at 120 North St. Other disputes with plow drivers were reported at Franklin and Leavitt streets at about 11:30 a.m. At 2:50 p.m., neighbors on Phillips Street were arguing about snow removal; at 8:06 a.m., police received a report that a dispute over shoveling at 47 Roslyn St. had escalated to the point where one man pushed another. Police advised them to stay away from each other.
Vehicles were towed on Margin Street due to the snow emergency and Lt. Scott Englehardt said the department issued about 100 tickets for interfering with snow removal. The tickets came with a $50 fine.
The situation was similar in Beverly, where a parking ban went into effect at 8:30 a.m. yesterday morning. A DPW truck struck a parked motor vehicle at 31 Atlantic Ave. at just after 8 a.m. Two accidents on Route 128 — one in the southbound lanes, one in the north — were reported between 6:30 and 8:30 a.m. Later, at 12:08 p.m., a car struck a guardrail on Route 128 near Exit 18. No injuries were reported in any of the accidents and state police in Danvers said most of what they saw during the storm was spin-outs and disabled motor vehicles.
An argument over snow removal brought police to 583 Cabot St. at 9:49 a.m., where they determined a man was accusing a plower of pushing snow into a property.
In Peabody, a vehicle struck a wall at Bartholomew Street and Piedmont Road at 9:45 p.m. on Thursday. There were no reported injuries. Police tagged vehicles for parking ban violations on Elm Street, Diane Road and Crowninshield Street, and towed four vehicles on Park Street at the DPW’s request. Minor motor vehicle accidents were reported on Andover, Tremont, Lynnfield and Central streets throughout yesterday morning.
A Belfast Street man was transported to Salem Hospital after an 8:49 a.m. report from his wife that he had injured his hand with a snow blower. A firefighter said the man had only injured the tip of one finger, but an officer said he was transported to the hospital “rather quickly.”
A tractor trailer truck was stuck in the snow at Route 128 northbound and Centennial Drive at 8:57 a.m.; later, at 10:15 a.m., police received a report that another tractor trailer had jackknifed at nearly the same location.
In Danvers, a car went into the marsh on Avalon Bay Drive at 10:03 p.m. on Thursday. There were no injuries. Other minor accidents occurred on Maple, Elliott and Prince streets, and in the parking lot of the Extended Stay Inn.
The storm also proved to be a knockout blow for two Plum Island homes, which will be torn down later this morning after suffering catastrophic damage during yesterday’s ferocious morning high tide.
The houses at 37 and 41 Annapolis Way were each condemned after high seas washed away the dune from underneath them, compromising their foundations and rendering them a danger to the public. Three other houses suffered significant structural damage in the storm and at least a dozen were left teetering perilously close to the edge.
The house at 41 Annapolis Way suffered the worst fate, toppling over the edge shortly after yesterday’s 8:30 a.m. high tide hit. It sat at a 45-degree angle, half on the dune and half on the beach, with wreckage and personal belongings spilling out into the waves that lashed at it.
Yesterday’s storm was the latest in a string of devastating storms to hit Plum Island over the past few months, including Superstorm Sandy, a surprisingly strong December storm, and last month’s blizzard.
Bob Connors, who lives between the two houses at 39 Annapolis Way, said he couldn’t recall Plum Island ever experiencing this many storms in such quick succession, and it’s taking its toll.
“I don’t think the storm is as bad [as the blizzard], but we have a fully compromised coastal dune system now so we have absolutely no storm protection,” Connors said. “So these homes are at risk at every tide.”
Staff writer Mac Cerullo contributed to this report.